Christianity and theology

Is it right to Critique Prayer?

The Infant Samuel at Prayer - Sir Joshua Reynolds

Lord, teach us to pray

Recently, I have been reading “When Grace Comes Alive” by Terry L. Johnson. The book has been of great help and blessing to me so today I would like to share this excerpt from the book regarding how we should perceive prayer. I hope you will learn something from it and it will also be of great blessing to you.

“We need not to make the mistake of thinking that we need no instruction on prayer, except for perhaps a few hints on technique. Prayer is sometimes seen as being so intensely personal as to be beyond the evaluation of others. ‘Some Christians resent the analysis of prayer,’ notes Dereck Thomas. Prayer is what we do when we pour out our hearts to god. How could such a thing be critiqued? How could it be done wrongly? How could it be improved? They act as though, Thomas continues, ‘some sacred ground is violated when we begin to dissect prayer under a spiritual microscope.’ Yet, the disciples asked, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ They perceived their need of instruction. Jesus responded with teaching on the place, the form, and the content (or words) of prayer. Apparently we need to be taught all of these things.

Why? Why is it not enough for us merely to say whatever is on our hearts, whenever and wherever we feel like it? Because with respect to prayer and worship, when left to ourselves, we never get it right. We don’t know how to pray. We don’t know what to say or how to say it. Why? To answer that we have to go ‘back to the garden’ and reacquaint ourselves with the givens of human nature. Since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit we’ve been off the bushes with them, hiding from God. We are separated from God and alienated from Him (Col. 1:21). We are ‘enemies’ (Rom. 5:10). We are ‘without God in the world’ (Eph. 2:12).

Because this is so, we have no natural inclination to pray. God is light, but as Jesus said, by nature we are lovers of the darkness and haters of the light (John 3:19, 20). We have a natural aversion to God. We don’t like Him. We don’t want to have to deal with Him. We don’t seek Him (Rom. 3:10). We refuse to honor or serve Him (Rom. 1:18ff). Even as redeemed people the dregs of our old nature continue to weigh us down with this antipathy.  We have to haul our bodies out of bed and drag them into prayer closet because fallen human nature, the remnants of which still plague us, resists contact with God. It wants to flee from God, not draw near to Him in prayer…

It matters to Him what we think about Him. It matters to Him how we pray to Him. Again, one might have thought that the truly important thing is that we pray. Just so long as we are sincere, so long as we try, so long as we pray on occasion, that’s all that matters. Given how busy and distracted we are, God should be pleased with any concept of Himself which we might have. He’s not pleased with any prayers that we might offer. We might think that it ought not matter to God, but it does. He is not pleased to receive any scraps of religious interest that we might offer to Him. He requires that we think of Him rightly, and that we approach Him rightly. Consequently, we must be taught. We need instruction. If we are wise we will realize with the Apostle Paul that ‘we do not know how to pray as we should’ (Rom. 8:26). With the disciples we will ask, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’ © Terry L. Johnson.

Amen and Amen!

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One thought on “Is it right to Critique Prayer?

  1. Pingback: Does it matter where we pray? | Spirituality Ireland Blog

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